CHICAGO — Your self-service laundry is looking a little worse for wear and your customer base is thinning out a bit. It might be time to make a change in an attempt to capture (or recapture) market share and boost revenue.
You have a retool in mind, but what precisely is a “retool”? And is such a concept limited to equipment only or can it involve other aspects of your operation?
American Coin-Op invited several representatives from vended laundry equipment manufacturers to answer some questions about the nature of retooling projects and what operators stand to gain by making over their stores.
In the earlier parts of this article, they defined a “retool” and looked at how various aspects might impact deciding to retool a laundry or not, calculating if a retool makes financial sense, project scheduling and timing, and more. Let’s conclude:
Q: What marketing opportunities might a newly retooled store present?
Matt Conn, Senior Marketing & Product Development Manager, Whirlpool Corporation Commercial Laundry: Just like with a new store, a retool gives the owner an opportunity to create some awareness with a grand opening-type event. These events draw attention to a Laundromat and get new customers to come in and experience the value that the incremental investment in your store brings to them as customers.
Gary Gauthier, National Sales Manager, Vended Laundries, Pellerin Milnor Corp.: Banners in the window are the biggest impact marketing tools that I’ve seen. They’re inexpensive and they still work, speaking directly to the people coming to the store. If you have a website promoting the laundry, a refreshed design on the web page along with new photos is a must.
Kevin Hietpas, Director of Sales, Dexter Laundry: The wide range of social media possibilities has made the world more and more visual. Advertising or social media posts promoting the great-looking results of your retool effort are a great way to reach current and potential customers and tell them about the exciting things you’re doing to deliver them a great experience. The posts can be even more attention-getting if you can promote the addition of new larger-capacity equipment or a new payment capability to make their life easier or more convenient.
Joe Purbaugh, Senior Direct Sales Specialist for Alliance Laundry Systems: The marketing opportunities are numerous when you have a newly retooled store. You can start with touting new, larger washers, or, if you retooled with 200-G-force washer-extractors, you can market high-extract washers or ultra-fast dry. You can also market special vend days … or even promote that the store is under new management and is a clean and safe environment. Don’t forget to tout the technology as well: greater cycle options, rewards programs, cashless payment, cutting-edge touchscreen controls, etc.
Q: Apart from upgrading equipment, what are some other ways that a laundry owner can “retool”?
Gauthier: I’m paid to help sell washers and dryers but I’ve also encouraged store owners to buy a lot of ancillary products. Sliding, automatic doors are a great facelift with a lot of functional value. Seating areas and folding stations can be expensive but worth it.
Hietpas: Think about the customer experience your store is delivering and, if you were a customer, what you’d most want to see improved. If it’s lighting, fix it. If it’s potholes in the parking lot, fill them. If it’s water-stained ceiling tiles, replace them. If your store needs Wi-Fi, add it. Laundry owners can never forget that customers have choices, and smart business people do everything possible to be their customers’ first choice.
Purbaugh: The best way to retool aside from adding new machines is to focus on the aesthetics of the store. New paint, new floor, upgraded ceiling tiles, flat-screen TV and even music can add to the welcoming feeling of your store. Comfortable and inviting seating also can be an important part of retooling “light.”
Tod Sorensen, Sales Manager – Western U.S., Continental Girbau: [One could consider] parking, windows, automatic door, drains, water supply, venting, combustion air, HVAC, bulkheads, aisle size, wash-dry-fold areas, automatic detergent/softener injection, sanitizing ozone/chemicals, payment system, etc.
Conn: New fixtures, lighting, seating, color schemes, flooring and even employees can be parts of a retool. It is really a time to take a hard look at what works for your Laundromat and decide which investments are going to drive a return. If you recently had a competitor open a store and take your business, now might be the chance to draw those customers back.
Q: Anything else that you’d like to add about retooling a self-service laundry?
Hietpas: As an owner, if you even think your store needs a retool – it does, and you should do it “yesterday.” Our industry is very competitive and the best way to keep out the competition is to make sure potential competitors can clearly see that your customers are already very well-served. And with the uncertainty of COVID-19, interest rates are at historic lows, so it’s a great time to get going. And if you’re going to make an investment in your location, it’s also a good time to talk with your landlord about a favorable extension on your lease.
Purbaugh: A Laundromat is like an extension of your customer’s home and should always feel that way to them. Replacing old equipment with new, higher-capacity and energy-efficient equipment will allow you to increase your vend prices. It will also help you hang on to your customer base, while attracting new customers to your store. You will also decrease your utilities by roughly 40% and eliminate expensive service fees and out-of-order situations that prevent you from generating revenue.
Conn: It is an exciting time for a business owner to make smart decisions to drive revenue and returns. Experienced distributors are a great source of information and advice in a retool. The most important support owners have is using the distributor as a source of information and strategic planning. Many see a retool as a large expenditure, but there are multiple approaches available including partial retools or replacing a bank of machines. Distributors can help owners identify the best investment options so that owners don’t have to absorb an entire store-retool expense if they don’t want to.
Gauthier: Customers can tell us so much without so much as a word. Pay attention to your customers because the things they do – and don’t do – can give us all the information we need to carefully retool a business.
If you missed earlier parts of this article, you can read them here: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3